Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 14:52 UK

Compassion plea after cycle death

Kate Auchterlonie
Kate Auchterlonie had a love of horses and was a keen amateur athlete

The family of a cyclist killed in a collision with a car has asked a court to show compassion for the driver.

Howard Owen, 29, ran into Kate Auchterlonie, 28, from Cardiff, as she rode her bicycle on the A469 mountain road near Caerphilly in February.

The judge at Newport Crown Court said her family wanted generosity, which was characteristic of her life.

Owen, of Caerphilly, who had admitted causing death by careless driving, received a suspended prison sentence.

As well as the nine-month suspended sentence, Owen was also banned from driving for two years and given 150 hours' community work.

Owen said he could not explain why he had failed to see Miss Auchterlonie.

Prosecutor Michael Mather-Lees said other drivers said their vision was affected by strong sun on the morning of the crash on 17 February.

He said there was no suggestion that Owen had been speeding on the 40mph speed limit road.

Howard Owen
He makes no excuses at all and was determined to plead guilty at the first opportunity
Hilary Roberts, defending

The prosecution said he should have had seven seconds in which to see her.

"As a result of the collision, police attended very quickly as did the other emergency services," said Mr Mather-Lees.

"On arrest Mr Owen stated: 'I don't know why I didn't see her.' In interview he said he used the road daily or regularly and was not in a hurry and was travelling at 40mph.

"He had lowered his sun visor and he did not see Miss Auchterlonie. Plainly as a result of that he collided with her and the offence was committed.

Post-traumatic stress

"He pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity."

Hilary Roberts, defending, said Owen, a customs and excise worker, was not using the sun as an excuse, had not driven since and was suffering the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

He had also been prescribed anti-depressants following the crash, the court heard.

"This is a tragic case in anybody's language," he said.

"The defendant is acutely aware that he has pleaded guilty to this offence and has always strived to do so. I know the court will grant him credit for that.

"He makes no excuses at all and was determined to plead guilty at the first opportunity."

This clearly has had a profound affect on your own life
Judge Roderick Denyer to Howard Owen

Mr Roberts said the accident was caused by a "momentary lapse in concentration".

Judge Roderick Denyer said Owen still could not really understand why he did not see Miss Auchterlonie in the road.

There was also some evidence that the sun was making things difficult for motorists at the time, said the judge.

"It is clear and obvious from the references I have read and the pre-sentence report that you feel deep remorse and this clearly has had a profound affect on your own life," said Judge Denyer.

He referred to a statement by Miss Auchterlonie's family, asking the court to show the compassion and generosity that was characteristic of her life.

The court heard that Victim Support was trying to arrange a meeting between her family and Owen as part of a restorative justice programme.

The judge also praised both families for their dignified silence in court.

After the hearing, the family of Miss Auchterlonie released a statement which said: "No sentence can ever make up for what we feel at losing Kate.

"Regarding the restorative justice process, we will be working with Victim Support to see what is best for both parties. It is not something that we want to make a public statement about."

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